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Fingerspelling in American Sign Language. Carol A. Padden University of California, San Diego October 2009. Questions. How is fingerspelling used in ASL? Is fingerspelling English? How should we teach fingerspelling in ASL classes? What should interpreters know about fingerspelling?.

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fingerspelling in american sign language

Fingerspelling in American Sign Language

Carol A. Padden

University of California, San Diego

October 2009

questions
Questions
  • How is fingerspelling used in ASL?
  • Is fingerspelling English?
  • How should we teach fingerspelling in ASL classes?
  • What should interpreters know about fingerspelling?

Carol A. Padden - ASLTA/October 2009

fingerspelling is older than asl
Fingerspelling is older than ASL
  • Fingerspelling first appeared in a book believed to be the first book on deaf education
  • Published by Juan Pablo Bonet, a hearing tutor of deaf children in Spain
  • In 1620

Carol A. Padden - ASLTA/October 2009

from spain to the us
From Spain to the US
  • Jacob Pereire, an oral teacher from Spain brought the one-handed alphabet to Paris where Abbe de l’Epee adopted it for use in his school
  • Laurent Clerc brought fingerspelling with him to the US, and used it in the first school for deaf children, founded 1817
  • Fingerspelling spread to other schools for the deaf
  • Fingerspelling was carved on a crypt at the South Carolina School for the Deaf
    • in 1861

Carol A. Padden - ASLTA/October 2009

slide6

Tombstone of Newton P. Walker, Superintendent of the South Carolina 
School for the Deaf and the Blind, 1861

Carol A. Padden - ASLTA/October 2009

slide7

‘Heaven’

Carol A. Padden - ASLTA/October 2009

fingerspelling is not always english
Fingerspelling is not always English
  • Compare:
    • A place where you buy nails, hammer, garden objects?
      • H-A-R-D-W-A-R-E STORE
    • Computers require software and…
      • HARD + W-A-R-E
    • Pick up a person
      • A pickup truck
    • A good workout
      • Did it work out okay?

Carol A. Padden - ASLTA/October 2009

asl uses fingerspelling more extensively than other sign languages
ASL uses fingerspelling more extensively than other sign languages
  • Compared to other sign languages, ASL uses fingerspelling alot!
  • We fingerspell city names, names of Presidents, brand names, company names, automobile makes and many other words.
  • Other sign languages translate these names into signs

Carol A. Padden - ASLTA/October 2009

fingerspelling is mostly nouns
Fingerspelling is mostly nouns
  • Some adjectives and prepositions
  • Very few verbs
  • Examples of fingerspelled nouns:
    • flour, pizza, campus, sports, passport, cab, sidewalk, studio, base, ballet, safety, tunnel, facility, lodge, inch, yard

Carol A. Padden - ASLTA/October 2009

slide11

Examples of fingerspelled adjectives:

    • manual, okay, invisible, diplomatic, jobless, remote, academic, gorgeous, busy, punk, muscular, wide, dark, overnight
  • Examples of fingerspelled verbs:
    • do, allow, chunking, tiptoe, proofread, try, would, be, miss, own, is, retire, was, being
  • Often the same fingerspelled verb is used many times
    • do, would, was

Carol A. Padden - ASLTA/October 2009

we use fingerspelling even if we already have a sign
We use fingerspelling even if we already have a sign
  • Some fingerspelled words are used even though there are signs for them:
    • C-A-R
    • L-O-V-E (noun only?)
    • L-I-F-E
    • R-E-N-T (“monthly rent”)
  • Compare:
    • RENT vs. R-E-N-T
    • FREE vs. F-R-E-E

Carol A. Padden - ASLTA/October 2009

fingerspelling is used by deaf people of all ages and backgrounds
Fingerspelling is used by deaf people of all ages and backgrounds
  • Even signers with high school education use fingerspelling
  • The difference is which words they fingerspell, not in the amount of fingerspelling
  • Older deaf people fingerspell different words than younger deaf people, making their fingerspelling more noticeable (e.g. week, glad, man)
  • Men and women are similar in how much they fingerspell. Maybe men fingerspell different words than women. (e.g. MY S-O-N)

Carol A. Padden - ASLTA/October 2009

asl has fingerspelled sign compounds
ASL has fingerspelled/sign compounds
  • Softball
    • But: snowball, paintball, eyeball?
  • deadline, timeline
    • But: the New York skyline?
  • the water is falling
    • But: Niagara Falls, waterfall?
  • Blackboard
    • But: blackmail, blacklist, blackball?
  • Blackberry
    • But: BlackBerry?
  • rolling down the hill
    • But: bread rolls, payroll?
  • Paycheck
    • But: payroll?

Carol A. Padden - ASLTA/October 2009

asl abbreviations are not always the same as english abbreviations
ASL abbreviations are not always the same as English abbreviations
  • M-I-N-N, M-D, M-I-C-H, M-O
    • But Maine?
  • V-W, M-B, B-M-W
  • H-P, M-A-C

Carol A. Padden - ASLTA/October 2009

fingerspelling cannot be separated from asl
Fingerspelling cannot be separated from ASL
  • Long history of fingerspelling in schools for the deaf in U.S.
  • Many deaf leaders supported fingerspelling as defense against oralism
  • ASL tends to use fingerspelling for new vocabulary

Carol A. Padden - ASLTA/October 2009

new fingerspelled words are always being added in asl
New fingerspelled words are always being added in ASL
  • How should fingerspelling be taught in ASL classes?
    • Can be a separate lesson
    • Or can be integrated as a part of ASL vocabulary
  • How should fingerspelling be taught to interpreting students?
    • Are sign/fingerspelling compounds too difficult for new interpreting students?
    • What about fingerspelling for interpreted performances on stage?

Carol A. Padden - ASLTA/October 2009

resources
Resources
  • Groode, Joyce. Fingerspelling: Expressive & receptive fluency. San Diego, CA: DawnSignPress
  • Mendoza, Liz. ABC-123: Fingerspelling and numbers in American sign language. Alexandria, VA: RID Press
  • Padden, C. (2006).  Learning fingerspelling twice: Young signing children's acquisition of fingerspelling. (Marschark M., Schick B., Spencer P., Eds.). Advances in Sign Language Development by Deaf Children.
  • Padden, C. & Clark, D. (2003).  How the alphabet came to be used in a sign language. Sign Language Studies. 4(1), 10-33.
  • Padden, C., & Brentari, D. (2001).  A lexicon with multiple origins: Native and foreign vocabulary in American Sign Language. (Brentari, D., Ed.). Foreign Vocabulary in Sign Languages: A Cross-Linguistic Investigation of Word Formation.
    • Padden articles can be found at http://communication.ucsd.edu/cpadden

Carol A. Padden - ASLTA/October 2009